Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: First Blush


First Blush
By Rebeca Seitz
Glass Road Media, 2014


Summary

From the author of the Sisters, Ink series comes a fun new novella about finding your way…at the beach.

Elizabeth Bakersfield may live in the gorgeous town of Naples, Florida, but she is not the thirty-year-old she envisioned. Her husband left with a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Her job prospects are nil. The rent is due. Her best friend is living a thousand miles away, building a career in NYC. And her closest companion is the cockatiel Johnny Carson.

The job front starts looking up when she’s offered the position of caretaker of Ganderley’s – a library, kind of. Elizabeth’s job is to loan out the priceless antiques and cars amassed by the widowed Ganderley sisters. Easy, right? Sign things out, get them back in two weeks. And, if she runs into trouble, there’s the gorgeous Ganderley nephew with the British accent, Nicholas Harrington, waiting in the wings with help.

But Elizabeth is about to learn first-hand that possessions – and gorgeous Brits - bring their own kind of drama. If she doesn’t figure out how to sidestep it, her job (not to mention the start of a new life) might be over before it ever really began.


My thoughts

First Blush is the first book I've read by Rebeca Seitz and I loved everything about it! Contemporary romance, women's fiction, chick lit - no matter the classification, it's an engaging read. Some social drinking is present, but not in a way that stands out. From characterization to storyline, dialogue to setting, and laced with humor throughout, Rebeca is a strong writer. First Blush is actually a novella of approximately 100 pages that sets the stage for more stories to follow, and I'm very eager to continue on with these characters.

When it comes to setting, Rebeca made me "feel" Naples - its breathtaking water views, stately mansions, and with keen insight into how the elite of society think and behave. Money doesn't always bring happiness, as we all know, and I felt for the Mrs. Pelser described by Elizabeth:  "Here she sat, day after day, in a beautiful home that she barely saw, married to a husband who barely saw her. It must be lonely. And tiring. And purposeless."




The main characters were very interesting, real, and easy to connect with. 30 years old and alone after her husband left with a younger woman, Elizabeth hasn't found her purpose or calling in life, struggles to pay the rent, and fails to live up to what a society daughter in the Bakersfield family should be. And then there's the personable and mysterious Nick - I really can't wait to learn more about him.

I've never heard of a place like Ganderley's and while I'd like to think it's a real place, I suspect it's a part of Rebeca's imagination. Ganderley's started when two sisters, Elva and Esther, lost their husbands and found themselves in possession of eight houses, two yachts, several vehicles, and tons of books and antiques. I loved these ladies who decided to share their wealth by letting people borrow whatever they needed, kind of like a fancy lending library. As a musician, I found Elizabeth's thoughts about Ganderley's music room moving:  "I entered the music room and cast a glance toward the baby grand gleaming in the corner of the room. Instruments captivate me. All that potential, just waiting for a skilled and talented person to notice and take action. They look like orphans, waiting to be loved."

There's not a lot of obvious faith elements in this novella, but I suspect we'll see more as the series unfolds. I liked how Elva shared her spiritual wisdom with Elizabeth:  "There's no need to rush about. . . . You'll find your path and then you'll know that everything leading up to it was necessary."  Just another reminder of how, even though we might not understand at the moment, we can trust that God was working for our good all along.

Rebeca is currently working on the next story, Second Glance, and I can't wait! First Blush comes to a satisfactory conclusion, but with the promise of much more to come. Highly recommended.

First Blush can be purchased online at Amazon, DeeperShopping, B&N.


Rebeca Seitz

An award-winning novelist and President of the first public relations firm dedicated to representing entertainment created from a Christian worldview, Rebeca has worked with various national media outlets, including The Today Show, USA Today, National Public Radio, Southern Living, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, and Good Morning America. She is recognized for her groundbreaking research into the behaviors of Christian consumers as well as development of public relations standards specific to creators of values-driven, entertainment-oriented products. She also co-chairs the non-profit SON: Spirit Of Naples, which equips and encourages Christians creating mainstream, commercially-viable media content.

Meet Rebeca online at rebecaseitz.wordpress.com, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter

Thank you to BookFun for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Vannetta Chapman


I am so glad to again welcome Vannetta Chapman to The Power of Words because not only is she a talented writer, but she loves to interact with her readers. Besides that, I've really enjoyed getting to know her. There's just something about Vannetta's writing that clicks with me, so I hope you'll try one of her books if you haven't already. And Vannetta's fans will be thrilled to learn all that she has in the works for us!

Vannetta is graciously giving away an ebook or print book to one of The Power of Words' readers, simply by answering the entry question she suggests in her interview. Giveaway details are at the bottom of this post.

Now let's enjoy what Vannetta has to share about Murder Simply Brewed and the Amish Village mystery series - and maybe learn something new about Vannetta!


Q:  What is your favorite genre in which to write? to read?

I was an English teacher/professor for 15 years, so I read absolutely everything. And I also like to write in different genres. For me, it's all about the characters, and I can put them in any "frame" a publisher wants. Romance, mystery, suspense, women's fiction--they're all wonderful genres to explore.


Q:  Is quilting something you've enjoyed learning?

Yes! Funny story, I wasn't much of a quilter before the last year. Then I started attending quilt shows to promote my book, The Christmas Quilt. At the Tyler quilt show I met a wonderful woman who owns a quilt shop in East Texas. She encouraged me to attend a quilting retreat - from that moment on I've been hooked!



Q:  Tell us about the Amish Village Mystery series and the book we are featuring today, Murder Simply Brewed.

For this book I visited the Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana and interviewed as many people as I could, including the general manager. It's a lovely setting where Amish and Englich work side bv side. Of course the murder and the mystery are pure fiction!


Q:  Please share a little about the main characters, Amber and Hannah.

They're rather polar opposites who do not expect to become close friends. Amber is the manager of the Village, Hannah is an hourly employee. Amber is older and unmarried. Hannah is young and being courted by several boys. The death of Ethan Grey pulls them together, and then God uses their friendship to restore peace and harmony to the Village (after some rather exciting events of course).


Q:  Is there anything we can learn about death based on the way the Amish view or accept death?

I think so. In Englich society, we keep aging and death at arm's length. We see both as something to be avoided at all costs. But the Amish embrace the later phase of life as well as our rebirth into our heavenly home. Of course people still mourn loved ones, but they also trust that God has a purpose for each of our lives, and sometimes that purpose is going home to be with our Father.


Q:  What faith elements did you weave into Murder Simply Brewed?

I try to emphasize God's grace in every story that I write. Without it, where would we be? I fall on that grace daily, and I want to show my readers that God is waiting, arms open, ready to give them the comfort and rest they need.


Q:  Do you enjoy reading in your spare time? Any favorite authors?

I have been on a reading frenzy this summer! I recently discovered Richard Paul Evans, and I read his 5 books of The Walk in 4 days. Isn't that fun? They're not necessarily mysteries but they are a good read.


Q:  What other stories can we look forward to in the near future?

I'm so glad you asked! My first romantic suspense, Hidden, will release in September. Murder Tightly Knit (book 2 in my Amish Village series) will release in December. And I'll participate in another Amish collection--An Amish Cradle, which will release in February.


Q:  How can we support and/or pray for you, Vannetta?

If you enjoy reading my books, please tell someone. The #1 way people find new authors is someone tells them about a book!

I'm happy to give away an ebook or print book to one of your readers. How about we discuss summertime. Comment below with your fav summertime activity.

Thanks for having me!

____________________


GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Murder Simply Brewed or your choice of books (ebook or print), simply answer Vannetta's question and leave your e-mail in a safe format. I'll contact the winner for book title and format. Here is a complete list of Vannetta's books:  Vannetta Chapman book list.

If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook. Also, please "like" my Facebook page, The Power of Words Book Reviews, if you haven't already. And new followers of this blog are always welcome!


  • E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, August 3. No purchase necessary.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail on Tuesday, August 5. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
  • Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors


Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors
By Mary Englund Murphy
Following God Bible Study Series
AMG Publishers, 2011


Summary

Perhaps more than any other biblical narrative, Joseph's life is a down-to-earth model for everyday relationships. Joseph was a lonely little boy--ignored by his brothers yet coddled by his parents. Feel his fear in the pit; follow his caravan to Egypt; stand with him on the slave auction block. You will experience his struggle for sexual purity, go with him to the dungeons of Egypt, rejoice in his rise to power, weep as he forgives the hurt and betrayal of his brothers.

This interactive workbook study will detail each aspect of Joseph's life and show readers how to relate it to their own temptations and struggles with envy, disappointment, betrayal, purity, power, and forgiveness--for to one degree or another, each of us is living a Joseph life.

Go beyond the Sunday school story and see Joseph as never before: the lonely little boy ignored by his brothers, yet coddled by his parents; feel his fear in the pit; follow his caravan to Egypt; experience his struggle for sexual purity; go with him to the dungeons of Egypt; rejoice in his rise to power; weep as he forgives the hurt and betrayal of his brothers.

Joseph is an eight week interactive Bible study offering hope, encouragement, and practical answers to life’s problems. It is a blueprint for understanding blended families with broken and betrayed relationships; serves as a leadership manual for churches and businesses; a handbook for employees and employers; a guidebook for resisting negative peer pressure and instituting moral purity, grace and forgiveness.


My thoughts

Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors, part of the Following God series by AMG Publishers, is an eight-week Bible study that takes an in-depth look at the life of Joseph, beginning with his ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. Each week's study is divided into five days and follows a specific time period or event in Joseph's life. All that is needed for the study is this workbook and your Bible. It also works well for either personal or group study. The Following God series is excellent, and Mary Englund Murphy's Joseph is no exception.

Numerous books and studies have been written on the life of Joseph - so why this particular one? That's easy . . . Mary is a good teacher and communicator; she sends you straight to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But one thing I particularly like about this study, as well as all of the Following God series, is that it works well for both the mature believer and new Christian alike. These studies point us to God's Word so that we can apply its truths to our own lives.

For someone who has grown up in the church, like me, the story of Joseph is very familiar. But through his humility, wisdom, willingness to extend forgiveness to those who harmed him, and acceptance of his small part in God's big picture, there is so much richness to be reminded of and continually apply to my daily life. This is something at which Mary excels. We all have to deal with life's trials, and this study gives a deeper understanding of how important my attitude is and how I can grow personally through these trials.

Quotes really speak to me - they are quick to get my attention, make me think, and are easily remembered. These are just a few of my favorites from the workbook:

"A half-truth is a whole lie."

"Where would you be if God lost His patience with you?"

"Becoming a good leader first requires becoming a good servant."

"We don't always need to know God's purpose; we only need to know He has a purpose."

"Let go of the past, walk in the present, let God hold the future."

"When you say you can't forgive, you're saying your standard for forgiveness is higher than God's."

Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors is a Bible study which will increase your understanding of a familiar story and from which you will grow spiritually. Highly recommended for personal or group use.

Joseph Beyond the Coat of Many Colors can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.


Mary Englund Murphy

        Mary Englund Murphy was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota into a blended, broken, and dysfunctional family. Born with a rare form cancer, she underwent major surgery at only four months. At the age of nine (after her parents divorced and both married new partners), Mary moved to the Florida Keys but spent summers in Minnesota with her father and his new family. During her teen years, her parents both divorced and married yet again.
        Mary now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband Bill and travels throughout the U.S. sharing her unique story of survival.

Meet Mary online at Looking Glass Ministries, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to BookFun.org for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: A Matchmaker in Middlebury (novella)


A Matchmaker in Middlebury (Novella)
By Anita Higman
Sequel to A Marriage in Middlebury
The Sunnyside Press, 2014


Summary

Meredith Steinberg takes the stage again in A Matchmaker in Middlebury and is given another chance to dance with destiny and meddle in the romantic affairs of two lovelorn singles. But Meredith’s skills as a yenta are stretched to the limit as she discovers that her golden egg-of-a-plan has a perilous crack. In the end, however, heartstrings are indeed knotted together as two singles find tender love—they’re just not the two people Meredith paired for marital bliss…


My thoughts

I love how authors often publish a short story or novella in order to further develop a character from a previous book, and Anita has done a beautiful job with that in A Matchmaker in Middlebury. This short story can stand alone, but it is a great follow-up to the full-length novel, A Marriage in Middlebury, which I loved (see my review here).

We return to the fictional Gulf Coast town of Middlebury, Texas, a quaint small town filled with sweet and sometimes quirky characters. Meredith, owner of the antique store Somewhere in Time, now steps into the spotlight with these beginning words:  "Boredom is one of the most perilous nouns on earth, Meredith's mother had always said. Why? Because each time Meredith Steinberg got bored - things happened. Good things and sometimes bad things."

A Matchmaker in Middlebury is a romantic comedy, and while I've always enjoyed the romance in Anita's books, she can now add humor to her list of writing skills. I suspect that, like me, most readers will have a smile on their face the whole time. Starting out with the best of intentions and plans well thought out, Meredith quickly learns that matchmaking is indeed a risky business and that plans can swiftly go awry. And one of my favorite parts was being reunited with Charlotte and Sam at their Austen-themed party.

Anita has a gift for making her characters so relatable and real. Bernard is a sympathetic character that I cared for, and I love being reminded of God's grace through Meredith's words to him:  "None of us are worthy of anything, but God sees fit to love us anyway - lavishly, unconditionally, and foreverly."

A Matchmaker in Middlebury is a short novella, approximately 50 pages in length, and can be purchased online at Amazon for only 99 cents. Highly recommended to fans of romantic comedy, and especially those who have read Anita's previous story, A Marriage in Middlebury.



Anita Higman

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has forty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Meet Anita online at anitahigman.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Death Takes a Ride


Death Takes a Ride
By Lorena McCourtney
Cate Kinkaid Files, #3
Revell, 2014


Summary

It's official. This case is above her pay grade--and Cate's in over her head.

Cate Kinkaid arrives at H&B Vintage Auto Restorations to give a friend a ride. But, as usual, trouble finds Cate even there--this time in the form of one dead man, one wounded man, and what appears to be a pretty obvious case of self-defense.

Despite having been merely an unfortunate bystander, Cate finds herself sucked into the case. And the deeper she gets, the more she begins to suspect that the shooting in the H&B office may not have been as cut-and-dried as it appeared.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lorena McCourtney takes you on wild ride in this clever cozy mystery that will keep you guessing.


My thoughts

As an avid fan of cozy mysteries, I love seeing one of this quality in the Christian fiction genre. Death Takes a Ride is well plotted, extremely well written, and contains some of the funniest scenes I have ever read. My reading experience was pure pleasure, thanks to Lorena McCourtney's storytelling ability and humor. While this is book #3 in the Cate Kinkaid Files, it easily stands alone; however, I look forward to reading the previous two stories soon.

This story is set in Eugene, Oregon, home of Belmont Investigations. I dearly love Cate, an assistant PI to her uncle, and Mitch, Cate's boyfriend and computer genius. Their romance is a sweet part of the story. And then there's Octavia, Cate's cat with a talent for detecting, and the most adorable dog named Clancy. Watching Mitch's growing attachment to Clancy just goes to show how quickly a pet can steal your heart. And I've just got to say that the scene describing a late-night motorcycle ride is laugh-out-loud funny and totally unforgettable.

Death Takes a Ride contains plenty of suspects, plot twists, and red herrings. Even when I can figure out the murder's identity, I just enjoy seeing how everything unfolds - but in this story, I was kept guessing. I also enjoyed how the spiritual element is the backbone of the story - Cate and Mitch have a strong faith, trust God to lead, are active in church, and pray.

I greatly enjoyed Death Takes a Ride and recommend it to all who enjoy mysteries with a humorous touch.

Murder Takes a Ride can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon


Lorena McCourtney

Lorena McCourtney is a long-time resident of Southern Oregon and enjoys using Oregon settings in her books. She wrote numerous short stories for children before moving on to romances and now to mysteries, often with a bit of humor. She won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Mystery “Book of the Year” and twice won the Daphne Du Maurier Award of Excellence.

Meet Lorena online at lorenamccourtney.com and Facebook.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.